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Dividing art assets when artists divorce

When undergoing a divorce, spouses often face a long and difficult process of dividing property. In states that have equitable distribution, like Florida, calculating the worth and appropriate division of assets can be a complex process, since distribution may be unequal depending on each spouse's financial circumstances, the needs of children, and the length of the marriage. When artists divorce, property division can be especially challenging due to the complex nature of art assets.

For artists, who often feel a deep personal connection to their work, the idea of considering their art as "property," and furthermore, property to which a spouse might be entitled, is difficult to accept. Nonetheless, the law considers art pieces divisible assets, and as such they need to be inventoried and appraised during a divorce process. Divorcing artists are advised to make an accurate listing of their pieces, specifying the value of the work and identifying when it was produced. Copyrights and licensing agreements also count as artwork and need to be included in the inventory.

Like any assets being contested in the property division stage of a divorce, art assets must be kept intact, not sold, given away, or destroyed. In states with equitable distribution, it is often possible to make arrangements for the artist spouse to keep works of significant personal value in exchange for more easily valued items like electronics or vehicles that the other spouse may prefer.

An attorney can be helpful to a client in a divorce where art assets are involved, particularly in cases where it is believed that the artist spouse is hiding assets. Attorneys can assist in searching out hidden assets, determining the value of complex assets, and establishing equitable distribution that takes into account the sentimental or personal value of artwork to one spouse or the other.

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